Saturday, December 18, 2010

Liberals – Art part I 107

Several years ago, there was an American television commercial showing a man in the middle of a desert. He is surrounded by dried, cracked mud and nothing else. Nothing else is living or moving. The scene is overwhelmingly monotonous.

A casual announcer, speaking but with no apparent attitude or pushiness, intrudes on this bleak panorama. “Why are foreign movies so boring?” he asks.

There is a pause.

“Why ask why? Drink Bud Dry,” is the concluding statement. End of commercial.

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But, as ironic and funny as this beer commercial may have been, it is a good question. Why ARE foreign movies so boring?

I've been watching movies all my life. I have an English literature degree. The talking, color motion picture is THE modern art form, having eaten the silent movie, painting, short pieces of instrumental music, the legitimate theater, and radio drama. The only danger it has faced in artistic supremacy has been by the power of network television from the late 1940s through about 1985.

I want to take a stab at the answer to the question about the inherent boredom induced by overseas movies: “Foreign movies do not follow the American formula for direction.” The American formula is to enter a room over the shoulder of a supporting character, maximizing the unobtrusiveness of the camera. The camera is normally on the person speaking if there is dialog. Ideally, the camera is on everyone in the room, so the audience can pick the person to watch, as if the set were on stage instead of on a movie screen (this is “deep focus”*). You never see the camera nor need to waste time figuring out where it is or what it is doing. You never see the microphones. The camera angles and motions are very similar to human eye movements. The audience trusts the realism and predictability of the cinematography, direction, and special effects.

*I've read leftist rants against deep focus as inartistic because the audience picks out whom to
watch instead of being led at every step by the eyes of the director.

European and generally leftist or “art” directors hate this straight jacket of cinematographic conventionality. For them, the director DIRECTS and tells the film crew – and then the audience – what to watch and what is important. The director is a little dictator presenting his utopia (or dystopia) to the audience, which has no say and no power except to go along for the ride.

“One potential problem in computer animation is that animators try too much razzle dazzle with the camera - if the viewer notices the camera action too much then they won't really notice the animation. Since most viewers have already seen countless hours of film or video, if you use the camera in traditional methods then it adds rather than detracts from the experience.

“Viewers” are smarter than manipulative directors think that they are! This is true for live actors and film as well as for animation.

Let me offer you an example by referring to my own personal favorite director, the late great Alfred Hitchcock. He started with short silent movies and made the first British talking picture, Blackmail, in 1929. After ten years of early sound movies, mostly suspense thrillers, he moved to Hollywood, where his first American picture, Rebecca, won best picture Oscar for 1940.

Think about that. An English director toddles into Hollywood and wins best picture for his first American film – that's almost impossible. Unless he already had the American rules down and was himself ahead of the game.

Here's a great summary by a modern student of film history about what Hitchcock did right – his ingenious cookbook. Unlike a foreign director imposing a point of view and philosophy on the audience, Hitchcock put the audience first and foremost; he places suspense above lecturing.

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How to turn your boring movie into a Hitchcock thriller

[in thirteen clever, well-described steps; see this link:]

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Foreign movies are BORING because foreign directors cannot resist the impulse to use film as a soapbox instead of the superior approach of respectfully entertaining the audience while respecting their intelligence and values.

This notion of the artist as an opinionated little tin pot dictator is pandemic among the artistic left. It started long before motion pictures and includes most modern and post-modern forms of art.

1 comment:

  1. I think the academy gives awards for best foreign language film, which implies english language movies are treated the same regardless of country of origin. This probably indicates a common aesthetic among english-speaking people.

    Then again, with the popularity of english language movies all over the world, we could say that aesthtic is common to everyone.

    hollywood does make its share of bad movies, and is often demeaned by artsy types for doing so. but it also makes a huge number of great films. The incorrect asumption of the artsy-fartsy crowd is that if an audience can relate to a film, it must be bad. I swear I am not making this up.

    I had a fight with my film proessor in college about this. Like every film professor, she made us watch "hiroshima mon amor". HORRIBLE film.

    i asked her why we couldn't learn good movie-making by watching equally good movies that we could actually relate to, like "terminator", just out at that time. She scoffed.

    In the very next class session, she rescinded her scoff, said she had seen 'terminator" and thought it was a very good film. She wouldn't even have watched it if i hadn't brought it up--another clue to the liberal pseudo-intellectual artistic mentality. they don't want to waste their time on what they assume to be inferior.

    btw, that same professsor wrote an excellent biography of orson welles, and thankfully the rest of the class was spent largely on his films.